The Importance Of Teaching Cooperative Behavior To Special Needs Children


Obtaining social skills and learning cooperative behavior is important for all children. However, it is more challenging to implement social skills and cooperative behavior when it involves special needs children.

These skills should be reinforced and prioritized above academic skills. If social skills are not taught first, they will impact the child’s ability to learn and the learning environment itself. In order to focus on academic tasks a child first needs to possess the important tasks such as turn taking, reciprocal interaction, listening skills which will ultimately allow a child to follow instructions from educators, parents and the public. We need to keep in mind that all special needs children will become special needs adults. Our goal should be to set expectations from early on with the intent of providing special needs kids with the optimum skills necessary so they can function at as independent of a level as feasibly possible for the particular individuals.

I mention the public arena because my personal philosophy is that learning take place in many arenas. It is not limited to the classroom Children learn from every day events such as going to the grocery store, eating in restaurants, going to the zoo and more. Every experience invites opportunities to learn. Even a trip to the play ground hones motor skills and creates an environment ripe for social interactions.

Although all children have snarky moments, children with disabilities can seem uncooperative more so. I use the word seem because what appears to be uncooperative behavior in special needs children may not be intentional. In their case, it can derive from sheer frustration. Simply put, They may lack the words or understanding of their situation to comply. Hence, in their case, the uncooperative behavior is not defiance. It is born from frustration and not possessing the skills needed to perform at the level expected of them.

Example in point…when my son was young he struggled with many fine and gross motor skill issues. He struggled with writing as he did not develop a pincer grip until third grade. He held a pencil in his fist. The teacher had labeled him defiant because he would put his pencil down during a class project.

One evening, he refused to complete his spelling homework and actuall slammed his pencil breaking the lead point. I stopped, observed and asked him WHY he was refusing to do his work. He told me it hurt his hand when he was required to write for to long. By asking the simple WHY question, I received an answer. I looked for a reason behind his behavior rather then judging.

Some reasons special needs children appear defiant can be due to processing issues. In my sons case, he had an Aspergerians typical advanced expressive vocabulary. However, his large vocabulary basically consisted of memorized words, factual information etc. In listening closely one would note that his conversations were often out of context, lacked the ability for small talk ie asking others about the weather, tv shows etc, consisted of factual information such as computers and other self interests. These conversations were basically not reciprocal in nature.

My son’s expressive advanced vocabulary hid his deficits with receptive vocabulary (meaning words he processed from others)

When processing deficits are an issue, it can impede their ability to learn and socialize. Some of the issues that can arise are:

Special needs children may need extended time to process information. If to many instructions are given at one time it can overwhelm them and be resultant in a meltdown, going on strike regarding performing what is requested of them (which was my sons way to shut others out).

When providing instruction to children, providing minimal steps for what is asked of them may help. In my son’s case, we broke down requests into easier steps. We started by asking him to brush his teeth.

We would wait until that step was performed before asking more of him For instance; after teeth were brushed we would then ask him to put on pajamas. After that task was done we would say it was time to go to bed. Etc. We gradually transitioned verbalizing one step to two steps and then three over a long period of time.

Children with learning issues can be provided with written instructions to reinforce the verbal requests given. If the child cannot read, pictures can be used for their list rather then words.

Another issue that may hinder children with receptive language issues or other processing issues are instructions that are vague. It is best to provide simple concrete directions. For instance, rather then saying get ready fro lunch. Rephrase your statement and say Please sit at the table so you can eat your lunch. In this fashion, the child has been provided with steps.

When children are asked to perform a task that is beyond there developmental capacity whether physical or developmental, proper intervention may make all the difference between cooperative behavior and a resultant meltdown that possesses the power of a tsunami.

A child may be asked to make their bed. The child may not have the motor skills to tuck in a top sheet and bedspread. In this case a simple adjustment such as getting rid of the top sheet and providing the child with a comforter that they merely throw over their bed may make a positive difference. If a child gets frustrated because “all the other kids can tie their shoes” provide them with prettied laces or Velcro.

If a child does not understand nor have the coping skills to handle a certain challenge, they quite possibly will act out. By looking underneath the surface, solutions can often be found. I will reiterate they are not being uncooperative intentionally.

Imagine if you were angry, sad, frustrated but did not possess the words to express your feelings. If we stop and look at the situation from this perspective, the reason behind the behavior becomes obvious.

Imagine having sensory issues and lacking the verbal or cognitive skills to explain your dilemma. For these children, a mere tag rubbing on their neck inside their shirt can feel like the equivalent of sandpaper rubbing against wood. Tasting spaghetti sauce may overwhelm their sensitive taste buds akin to an explosion in their mouth.

My suggestions to assist in development of verbal, physical and social skills:

If a child pinches when they are upset, simply say “that hurts”. Providing a substitute rather then pinching initially may work better then merely saying “stop that”. Provide a pinching board. It simply consists of a clothes pin and piece of cardboard. Model how it works.

Merely say you may pinch the paper with this clothes pin but you may not pinch people. It hurts them. Surprisingly I have had great success using this idea. It may take a while to catch on depending on the child’s cognitive level. When it does however, this provides a great substitute.

When a child cannot find the words to express what they are feeling, continuously asking them what the issue is may be resultant in behavioral issues born from the frustration of not possessing descriptors for their problem. A good way to approach this is to model the words they cannot find.

Perhaps, rather then asking the child what is wrong you can state some descriptors for them. This will assist them in identifying feelings an the future. Perhaps you could say, “You must have had a bad day at school. You look like something made you angry today.

For socialization, take into account the fact that group sports may be to overwhelming for them. Bowling is an excellent non threatening choice for special needs kids. It provides socialization with peers. However, the child is basically competing against themselves rather then a large baseball or soccer team. In our case, candle pin bowling was a great way to hone motor skills. Rolling a ball with one hand helps mid-line balance. Focusing on the pins and lining up the ball is great for hand eye coordination.

Using a laptop versus a pencil for children with fine motor skill issues can increase their ability to write and communicate. It may also help them develop the self esteem to become more involved in writing.

Turn taking can be enhanced by games such a Jenga. This game enhances higher order skills through figuring out which block to pull out without causing the Jenga tower to fall. Jenga also encourages turn taking skills as the child needs to wait there turn for others to pull out a block.

As children advance, encourage them to call trusted family friends and relatives on the phone and invite them to your home. As time goes on encourage the child to pick one child from school and call them on the phone as well.

Please remember, your children’s challenges are not your fault. They may meltdown physically or emotionally more so with you because they trust you. They know that no matter how bad their behavior is you will always stand by them.

I am a published author and focus on books pertaining to autism and Aspergers Syndrome. I have had special needs articles published in several magazines. I have been interviewed several times in print, on pod casts, and internet T.V. regarding the autism spectrum. I have presented autism workshops to staff, management teams, and parent groups. I offer tips on curriculum development and behavior modification within the classroom and through in-services. I am certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs. I have recently ventured into public speaking engagements to educate both parents and educators on autism and Aspergers Syndrome
I want my experiences and challenges to be used productively as a learning tool for other parents and for educators as well. When my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s a decade ago it was a foreign word among many parents and professionals alike. I fought for help never giving up. Through my books I wish to help parents feel like they do not walk in the dark, that they are not alone, empower them and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I also want to educate society at large on the topic of the autism spectrum. I believe all parties involved need to work as a collaborative team in order to insure a special needs child’s success.If you like my articles, aside from being the parent of an adult with Aspergers Syndrome/ A.D.D and an educational professional, I am also a published author of many special needs and autism related books written to inspire and support parents, families, educators and society at large as well. Please stop by and check out my books on Amazon.com at Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9

 

Mari Nosal M.Ed.

Autism Is Not Outgrown Nor Cured :Focus On Support


 

 

Autism cures and the origins of autism are running rampant presently. New articles appear in all media venues daily. Some are downright invalidated claims that appear to have been pulled out of a metaphorical hat randomly.

As the parent of an adult son with Asperger’s syndrome and educator, I will attempt to form my rebuttal. I have gained more knowledge working with special needs children in the classroom and bringing up a child on the spectrum to adulthood living with him 24 – 7 then I ever learned in my Masters of education courses and undergrad psychology courses.

For sure, my educational background provided me with the knowledge and application for diagnostic techniques, application, delivery, behaviors and comprehension of learning, emotional and developmental syndromes. However, I learned quickly that neither my students nor my son came from a page in a textbook. An alternate college called school of hard knocks is where I actually honed my skills.

That said, autism is a neurobiological syndrome. Simply stated, this means autism affects the neurological system and the biological system of individuals on the spectrum. I choose to call autism a syndrome versus a disorder. I have mentioned in the past that I equate a disorder with a broken engine in a car that needs to be repaired. Autistics are not broken. Therefore they do not need to be fixed.

We need to focus on supportive strategies to assist special needs individuals in honing there skills to the extent of development that individual can reach versus focusing on cures. Perhaps, rather then spending large amounts of money on curing autism which cannot be cured as it is not a disease, we should focus on beneficial programs.

Some programs that must be increased are parental, special needs, and sibling programs. Autism affects the whole family not just the individual who is diagnosed with it. Thus, all involved with an individual on the spectrum require increased support educational, spiritually, therapeutically, and supportive assistance.

Programs are severely lacking for adults on the spectrum as well. As these individuals age out of parents insurance, childhood social groups and therapy, etc. they are literally being sent out into the world without the much needed transitional skills and support teams to achieve independence and success within society. All autistic children will grow up to be autistic adults.

Those on the spectrum and their families who have received assistance from intensive support teams who assist with bio – psycho – social development can develop skills to help them function within society and provide skill – sets that assist their positive growth and development.

Through intensive therapy, behaviors may be abated, skills may be learned. This is not indicative of being neither cured nor outgrowing autism. Throughout intensive therapeutic programs and neurological development of an individual as they get older, compensatory strategies are learned. Compensatory strategies mean exactly what the word sounds like. Autistic individuals learn to compensate for their deficits through honing their strength’s.

The child who learns visually but has difficulty with auditory steps may use pictures to follow through with a task. As children get older, they may replace stimming by twirling in circles, flapping hands, humming out loud with feet that are in constant motion while staying seated, rubbing hand across the edge of a table, sliding fingers over a coffee cup or simply squeezing a rubber ball to release stress. These individuals are not “cured” of autism. They have simply adapted and learned more socially acceptable ways to deal with behaviors due to intense training and maturation of their nervous system over time.

Cure is not a realistic focus because it is encouraging society to focus on grouping individuals on the spectrum into a cookie cutter ideology of what neurotypical society deems as normal. Society needs to stop focusing on cures and techniques that project an unrealistic goal of creating individuals on the spectrum who fit society’s view of normal. focus

Focusing on merely cures is insulting to both autistic individuals AND the families who love them. It sends a hidden message that conforming with the norms of society is a prioritized over assisting special needs individuals in receiving optimum quality of life and celebrating the skills and unique personalities that autistic individuals possess. Hence, the message of cures which equates normalcy is resultant in making special needs individuals and their families feel somehow damaged because they do not fit societal expectations.

In closing, with treatment, autistic individuals can develop and grow. Absence of challenges and behaviors that were present in the past may dissipate. This in no means is indicative of autism being cured. For many individuals, it is a constant battle to internalize behaviors to “fit in”. Autism is still present but adaptive skills have been learned.

Let’s remember to look deeply enough to see and celebrate the individual talents that autistic individuals possess, even the lowest functioning ones. The child who can not speak may have a smile that melts the heart of all that come in contact with him or her. The child with a low IQ may have an extremely high artistic IQ and express their thoughts with a paintbrush.

The individual who is not capable of interacting in social groups may possess the capability to stand on stage and give the world the gift of music. The individual who is non verbal may write a bestseller book that rocks the world when provided with a lap top. I could go on but I suppose I have made my point.

Embrace the talents of the autistic population rather then focusing on their deficits. If you stop looking for deficits and cures, you may see the talents that these individuals possess. Approach as a diamond in the rough. Diamonds are original black and ugly. When they are polished a beautiful shiny diamond appears although one cannot see it until they dig through the rough black surface that hides the treasured jewel. Food for thought. If society steps into the world of an autistic individual for a while rather then constantly focusing on them stepping into the neurotypical world, they may just join you in our world more often.

I challenge you. Step outside of your biased box today. Find a diamond in the rough and start polishing away.

I am a published author and focus on books pertaining to autism and Aspergers Syndrome. I have had special needs articles published in several magazines. I have been interviewed several times in print, on pod casts, and internet T.V. regarding the autism spectrum. I have presented autism workshops to staff, management teams, and parent groups. I offer tips on curriculum development and behavior modification within the classroom and through in-services. I am certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs. I have recently ventured into public speaking engagements to educate both parents and educators on autism and Aspergers Syndrome
I want my experiences and challenges to be used productively as a learning tool for other parents and for educators as well. When my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s a decade ago it was a foreign word among many parents and professionals alike. I fought for help never giving up. Through my books I wish to help parents feel like they do not walk in the dark, that they are not alone, empower them and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I also want to educate society at large on the topic of the autism spectrum. I believe all parties involved need to work as a collaborative team in order to insure a special needs child’s success.If you like my articles, aside from being the parent of an adult with Aspergers Syndrome/ A.D.D and an educational professional, I am also a published author of many special needs and autism related books written to inspire and support parents, families, educators and society at large as well. Please stop by and check out my books on Amazon.com at Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9

Mari Nosal M.Ed.

 

My Personal Opinions:Outlandish Claims Regarding Reasons For Autism


There has been a recent explosion of theories regarding how autism develops. Frankly, I am finding the (research), and I use this term quite loosely shocking. The most mind-blowing factor of said research is that 75 percent of it points to autistic children’s mothers.

Parents of children on the autism spectrum already possess shaky self esteem without adding the blame game to their life. This merely reinforces the questions and fears that they mull around in their mind without reinforcement from the public.

Special needs parents are a vulnerable population. Like every other parent in society they seek to provide the best life possible for their children. They seek to do anything within their power to help their children thrive and live happy lives with as much of a semblance of normalcy and independence as will be feasibly possible.

As the parent to an adult son with Asperger’s. I take great offense to the recent speculation regarding the development of autism. In my opinion some are down right ludicrous. Some of the oddest are linked to mothers. Way to go society. We don’t already possess enough personal responsibility for the health and welfare of our children before hearing these ridiculous claims?
Children that are not spaced apart in age sufficiently. Birth order, having children at an advanced age, possessing specific antibodies, children born in the summer, gestation and fetal cells that are growing in the mothers womb, (This is my favorite and most ludicrous. How else would any fetus develop? A barn perhaps? :-0) , induction of labor, living near loud areas such as a train track, passing negative genes on to our children via older fathers. (Yes dads, you are not immune from causing autism either) , eating the wrong foods, being depressed, being infected with a virus during pregnancy, not being an attentive parent and being unemotional, being an overly attentive parent, having a C-section, drinking bottled water, fumes from exhaust on vehicles and perhaps we should add simply breathing the air. (sarcasm here)
This list goes on but I have made my point. In light of all the speculation regarding autism and its roots, I will add my own list. This will merely emphasize how ludicrous many of these claims are.

I shall add a personal PARODY to the outrageous claims being stated lately. Do not eat a pepperoni pizza while watching upsetting news stories when there is a full moon outside when pregnant. The full moon is known to disturb human’s metabolic balance. Thus, contributing to the development of autism.

When taking young children outside for any reason, supply them with ear plugs. This will provide protection from everyday noises such as car engines, singing carolers during the holidays, loud voices such as the man at the supermarket who yells “clean up in aisle five over the intercom” and more. I could provide more confabulated claims but I am sure the reader gets my point.
These outrageous claims regarding how autism develops made by professionals is bordering on ridiculous. These claims are serving no purpose other then to reinforce parents veering towards going on an even larger guilt trip then they already are.

I would love to see professionals write some articles on how parents have assisted their autistic children to develop and grow beyond the original expectations that had been set forth by the autistic child’s development team.

In reality, when an individual has a family member on the spectrum. Parents, It is no fault of your own. Please do not heed the ridiculous claims running rampant. In my own personal experience I have not had to look far within my family tree to find other individuals affected by autism to some degree. I have met many individuals with autism that have a parent with Asperger’s which is a form of autism. Basically it is a genetic crapshoot and NO FAULT OF YOUR OWN PARENTS.

In fact, parents of special needs children are one of the most devoted groups of individuals around. They spend a fortune equivalent to a jumbo mortgage on a house to equip there children with therapeutic toys, therapy, special schools and more.

In closing, special needs parents, please commend yourself for the monumental amount of time that you expend on your special needs children. You give up jobs, free time, socializing, even date nights with spouses as specialized sitters who can care for autistic children are not only hard to find but chargeexorbinant fees as well that are out of the financial reach of many special needs parents. Celebrate what you do right for your kids. Do not focus on what you do wrong.

Please remember that many of these outlandish research studies regarding how autism occurs are done by individuals in white lab coats studying dependent and independent control groups. Many have never even interacted with autistic children on a regular social basis. Autism can not be Googled it has to be experienced. A research paper does not make one an expert on autism. Our special needs children are not specimens in a petri dish to be microscopically examined. They are thinking, feeling human beings just like the rest of neurotypical society.

To researchers, I leave you with this. Please be careful when presenting theories to the public. My bit of advice for you is combine your dependent and independent control group studies, longitudinal studies, nulls and more with observation of children and parents in the autism community. Observe them in natural settings like their homes. Spend a period of time sharing the special needs families day and evening with them in the child’s natural setting. Have dinner with the family etc.

And for society, this will provide a teachable moment for you.

I am a published author and focus on books pertaining to autism and Aspergers Syndrome. I have had special needs articles published in several magazines. I have been interviewed several times in print, on pod casts, and internet T.V. regarding the autism spectrum. I have presented autism workshops to staff, management teams, and parent groups. I offer tips on curriculum development and behavior modification within the classroom and through in-services. I am certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs. I have recently ventured into public speaking engagements to educate both parents and educators on autism and Aspergers Syndrome
I want my experiences and challenges to be used productively as a learning tool for other parents and for educators as well. When my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s a decade ago it was a foreign word among many parents and professionals alike. I fought for help never giving up. Through my books I wish to help parents feel like they do not walk in the dark, that they are not alone, empower them and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I also want to educate society at large on the topic of the autism spectrum. I believe all parties involved need to work as a collaborative team in order to insure a special needs child’s success.If you like my articles, aside from being the parent of an adult with Aspergers Syndrome/ A.D.D and an educational professional, I am also a published author of many special needs and autism related books written to inspire and support parents, families, educators and society at large as well. Please stop by and check out my books on Amazon.com at Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9

 

Mari Nosal M.Ed. CECE